The Pokomo 8 Journey Trips of Proposal Before Marrying a Girl

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No sex was permitted before the actual marriage. The virginity of a girl was highly valued among the Pokomo. A betrothed couple, though, could meet secretly to embrace, kiss and cuddle. It was known as kuhanana bagwi. A girl who was going to meet her future husband always tied a piece of loin cloth known as nsambaa tightly round the waist and thighs. Girls who went to be embraced without the loin cloth were rebuked by their fellow girls or older women as this could encourage pre-marital sex. It was also a taboo for a boy to untie a girl’s loin cloth before official marriage.

The Pokomo were so strict with the preservation of a girl’s virginity (kizinda) such that the minute a girl was suspected of having an affair with a boy before marriage, she was immediately taken to some experienced midwives for investigation. They questioned the girl and then physically checked whether she had lost her virginity or not.

With this kind of surveillance, no Pokomo girl could risk indulging in pre-marital sex. Marriage process among the Pokomo took a long time to finalise. It could even take a whole year to complete. A boy might meet a girl of his choice during the many dances and celebrations. He then sent a word to his parents to start marriage negotiations. The most common practice, though, was where a young man had his bride recommended to him by his parents.

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The girl was chosen as a wife for the son before they were both initiated. She was usually from a hard working family. Cousin marriages on the mother’s side were highly encouraged and were quite common. Marriage from the same clan or relatives from the father’s side was strictly forbidden. Formal process started when the son’s father went to the girl’s house with a basket full of rice and some snuff. He then joked with the girl’s father by saying, “Nidzia kulacha moho” i.e.” I have come to look for some fire.” This was the initial process of formalising a marriage. If the two parties agreed to the marriage proposal, another day was set when the boy’s father met with the uncles and parents of the girl.

Paternal uncles played a very important role. The Pokomo believed that a girl was a daughter of the uncles as well and their permission was sought before any negotiations could start. This wasdone during the first trip out of eight trips which the boy’s father made. Each journey was counted as a bare. The recognised journeys were:

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Bare ya Kedhya:- These were gourds of honey beer presented to the close relatives of the girl during the first trip. Its aim was to introduce the paternal uncles of the girl and accord an opportunity for the boy’s father to ask for permission to enable the marriage negotiations to take place.

Bare ya Hasawa:-These were gourds of honey beer presented to the girl’s parents during the second trip. Its aim was to accord an opportunity for starting the marriage negotiations.

Bare ya Ukwe:-These were gourds of honey beer presented during the third trip to the girl’s parents. Its aim was to accord an opportunity for thanks giving by the boy’s parents. During this trip, the boy’s father also presented two bags of rice and bananas. The girl was officially betrothed. This engagement was known as Kifunga mriji and no other man could betroth the same girl.

Bare ya Abojwe:- These were gourds of honey beer presented during the fourth trip to the girl’s parents. Its aim was to accord an opportunity for introducing the girl’s maternal uncles.

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Bare ya Sindo:- These were gourds of honey beer presented during the fifth trip to the girl’s parents. Its aim was to accord an opportunity for introducing the clan members of the girl’s family.

Bare ya Mudzi:- These were gourds of honey beer presented during the sixth trip to the girl’s parents. Its aim was to accord an opportunity for introducing the boy’s parents to the village where the girl was born.

Bare ya Wayume:- These were gourds of honey beer presented during the seventh trip to the girl’s parents. Its aim was to accord an opportunity for introducing the village elders who would be representing both parties during the final negotiations before the girl was released. The wedding day was finally decided.

Bare ya Chuuwo:- These were gourds of honey beer presented during the eighth and final trip to the girl’s parents. Its aim was to accord an opportunity for the boy’s father to be told the amount of bride price to be paid for the girl.

Back at the boy’s home, a marriage ceremony was held.(to be continued…)

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Edward M. Yesse is a Pokomo from Ngao. He was born on 18th December, 1957. He passed through Ngao Primary School, Tarasaa High School and the University of Nairobi where he graduated with an Upper Second Class Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Public Administration in 1986. In addition, he has a First Division Diploma in Constitutional Law and a First Division Diploma in Parliamentary Institutions and Procedure from the Institute of Constitutional and Parliamentary Studies, New Delhi, India, which he obtained in 1990. He is also a Parliamentary Fellow from the same Institute. He passed the Administrative Officers' Examination administered by the Public Service Commission in 1990. He obtained a Diploma in Business Management from the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) in 2003. He attended numerous other courses. He is currently pursuing his MBA. He opted for an early retirement in June, 2013 as Regional Manager with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) due to personal reasons. E-mail: edwardmyesse@yahoo.com Mobile No: 0722647327 or 0733860825

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